The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas by Madeline L’Engle, illustrations by Jill Weber
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 978-0374380052
Synopsis: Vicky Austin’s family does one special thing each day of December to prepare for Christmas. This year, they’re also preparing for the birth of a new brother or sister, due after the New Year. Vicky is worried that the baby will come early―what kind of Christmas Eve would it be without Mother to help them hang up stockings and sing everyone to sleep with carols? – from Amazon.com
Why I picked it up: The title reminded me of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas“.
Why I finished it: L’Engle is quite prolific and her body of work has a wide age range, this novelette being no exception. The reader is treated to the holiday traditions of a picturesque little family that are deeply rooted in the Christian faith, and I enjoyed the different crafts and activities that the Austins did in the days leading up to Christmas. I can appreciate the anticipation and the anxiousness that Vicky experiences in worrying about her performance in the pageant and whether her mother will be home to celebrate the holiday with the family. She wants to prove that she isn’t too young to be the angel, and yet, she is child-like in her worry for her mother. But the Austins are a tightly knit group, and they look out for each other, desiring to make sure that everything will be as they hope it will be. Weber’s illustrations add a festive note to the narration, enlivening the margins with their own brand of holiday cheer. It’s a short book that can be read to oneself or out loud with others and enjoyed and shared year after year.
Other related materials: A Full House: An Austin Family Christmas by Madeline L’Engle; Meet the Austins by Madeline L’Engle; The Moon by Night by Madeline L’Engle; The Young Unicorns by Madeline L’Engle; A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle; Troubling a Star by Madeline L’Engle; Miracle on 10th Street and Other Christmas Writings by Madeline L’Engle; Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien; The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Brian Floca; A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams